Cyprus sits at the crossroads of three continents, attracting over two million vacationers a year. A tender division exists between the Greeks and Turkish populations, making for an intriguing drive across the border where you notice the distinct division from the Turkish north and Greek south. The international airport is in Larnaka in the south, and the drive from there to the north takes just over an hour through the mostly baron inland, but once you reach the coast, the sights are incredible.
The long-standing host of the World Poker Tour is the spectacular Merit Crystal Cove, an all-inclusive, beachside resort (see images below). A day at Merit Crystal Cove consists of a buffet breakfast by the pool, snorkel session in the ocean, followed by sunbathing on the beach with free cocktails, buffet lunch by the beach, more swimming and sunbathing, buffet dinner with more free drinks, a stop by the casino with even more complimentary buffets and beverages, sleep, and repeat. Tough, huh? Throw in a world-class poker tournament, and you’ve created a poker player’s haven.
The food at Merit Crystal Cove is fantastic, The resort is in the Turkish region so expect to sample many traditional breads and deserts. The buffet includes everything you could want: fish, chicken, kebabs and pasta. Live music accompanies dinner every night, and you might even have an appearance by a belly dancer or a stray cat.
- Language: English is widely spoken across the island, but Turkish is the main language in the northern Turkish-Cypriot community where the WPT is held.
- Currency: Turkish Lira is used in the north of the island.
- Tipping: While tipping is always appreciated, a 10 percent service charge is automatically applied in all hotels and restaurants on Cyprus, so you won’t be chased out the door if you forget to tip.
- Weather: Cyprus is in its heart of summer right now, so prepare for dry Mediterranean heat. The average sea temperature climbs to around 27° C — bliss.
- Electricity: The power across the entire island is 230 volts, so beware North Americans, save the appliance disaster by leaving your hair dryer at home.
The town of Kyrenia, a 20-minute drive from the Merit Crystal Cove resort, is surrounded by the calm Mediterranean Sea to the north and green Besparmak Mountain Range to the south, offering some of the best scenery on the island.
In town, you'll find a small harbor framed by the Kyrenia Castle, a museum holding 6,000 years of history, fantastic waterside restaurants and plenty of souvenir shops. At night, a market along the harbor sells locally arts and crafts — perfect gift to take home.
I’ve had quite a lot of Chinese meals in my day, having such a strong Asian influence in Australia, but I can still easily claim that one of the best Chinese feasts I’ve ever had was in Cyprus at Dragon at the Rocks Hotel & Casino in central Kyrenia.
For some traditional food, try Niazi’s, one of the most popular restaurants in Kyrenia. It’s situated right by the water and offers all sorts of food, but you’d be missing out if you don't order its trademark “Full Kebab” with charcoal-grilled kebabs and Meze, a traditional Middle Eastern cuisine full of dipping sauces and breads.
To aid after-dinner digestion, walk along the Kyrenia harbor through the stunning night markets I mentioned. I purchased some of my favorite jewelry there and then stopped by one of the harborside bars for a nightcap and Hookahs.
Season XI of the World Poker Tour kicks off with the Merit Cyprus Classic from August 4 through 9 and PokerNews will be there bringing you all of the action from the felt.
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